The Crumbling Empire Of White People is the second album by singer-songwriter Mr. Smolin who has teamed up once again with iconic pop composer/dramatist Stew (The Negro Problem, Passing Strange) to create an earthy follow-up to the outer-space journey of Smolin’s debut album At Apogee (Nomenclature Records, 2004). Throughout The Crumbling Empire Of White People, true to form, Stew’s deliciously appropriate brain-tickling production intermingles seamlessly with Smolin’s memorable melodies and striking words, making for a listening experience exquisite as crystal. Described by Wired magazine’s Steve Silberman as a songwriter who composes both “hooky tunes that you can’t get out of your head” and lyrics that are “transcendental poetry,” Smolin takes his mad skills to an even higher level on The Crumbling Empire Of White People, signalling an important artist in full flight amid the gathering ruins.
Mr. Smolin is the performance moniker of Los Angeles musician and teacher Barry Smolin, aka Shmo. Best known publicly as the host of the psychedelic radio show The Music Never Stops on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California, Smolin has been writing songs for 30 years in a variety of genres, finally settling on a piano-based offbeat sound that reflects influences ranging from Stephen Foster and Hoagy Carmichael to poetic songwriters like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to pop eccentrics like Gilbert O'Sullivan and Tim Buckley, as well as theatre composers like Jerome Kern and Stephen Sondheim, among many others. Smolin's aesthetic, though, retains its own forward-thinking originality—keeping one foot in the avant-garde and one in Tin Pan Alley—with enough straightforward tunefulness to be accessible but enough subtlety to reward repeat listenings. Smolin aspires to create artful music that is equally at home in nightclubs, on legitimate theatre stages, and wafting through the dankest bohemian loft-spaces.
The Crumbling Empire Of White People boasts performances and other contributions from some of L.A.’s finest musical talents. Stew not only produced the record, but sings harmonies and plays a mixture of intruments, too. In addition, Stew’s creative cohort Heidi Rodewald chimes in vocally as does smoky L.A. chanteuse Patria Jacobs. Also on hand are multi-instrumentalist Probyn Gregory (The Brian Wilson Band, The Wondermints), Carlos Guitarlos producer /bassist Marc Doten, woodwinds virtuoso Vince Meghrouni (Atomic Sherpas, Fatso Jetson), bassist Carl Sealove (Fun With Animals, Boxing Gandhis, New Corvairs), drummer Josh Baldwin (The Negro Problem, Revolutionary Side Effects), and Smolin's stalwart musical foil Harvey Canter (Ruby Flux, Sea of Green).
In addition, the album art offers an extra visual flourish with arresting images courtesy of renowned Pervasive artist, Emmy-award winning animator, and longtime Smolin enthusiast Gary Baseman.
At once timely and timeless, embracing and provocative, The Crumbling Empire Of White People is Mr. Smolin’s take on love and loss, politics, religion, and other burdens of our age. Dizzy with a world in retrograde and the only superpower teetering under the weight of its own excess, Mr. Smolin has applied his insightful mind and melodic grace toward concocting this brilliant batch of apocalyptic pop tunes, a brain-tonic laced with luscious production and whopping awesome fun, the perfect soundtrack for those seeking illumination, mindfulness, wit, heart, and a real good time.